This is the Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:00 AM. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parcel it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: Toyota and Nissan, Japan's two biggest automakers, led a 27.6% drop in domestic vehicle sales, the 11th straight monthly decline, after the nation's March 11 earthquake disrupted production. Sales of cars, trucks and buses, excluding minicars, fell to 241,472 vehicles in July, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said in a statement today. Sales at Toyota, Japan's largest automaker, declined 37% from a year earlier to 101,790, excluding Lexus-brand cars. Toyota, Nissan and Honda are working to restore full operations after the magnitude-9 temblor and tsunami damaged factories and caused parts and power shortages. The disaster has further depressed vehicle demand after a government subsidy program for fuel-efficient cars ended in September 2010. Deliveries at Nissan fell 17.6% to 41,810 in July, and sales at Honda, Japan's third-largest automaker, dropped 33% to 33,711.
2nd Gear: Bloomberg reports this morning that Ford said it's reducing the price of its in-car communication system to boost sales of the option that lets drivers make hands-free calls as more states ban the use of cell phones while operating a vehicle. The Sync system's price will drop to $295 on 2012 Ford models, $100 less than the option's cost on current model year vehicles, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said today in a statement. The 2012 Edge crossover and 2012 Explorer will be first to offer Sync at the lower price, Ford said. Ford has said the Sync system, available on almost all models, is an important consideration in 50% of purchases. The company has sold more than 3 million vehicles with the system, which, at $295, is $196 more than the cheapest iPhone.
3rd Gear: AutoWeek reported this weekend that Detroit charities have emerged as the victor in a dispute between Audi AG and Eight Mile Style LLC, the company that licenses Detroit rapper Eminem's songs, after Audi released a commercial in May that appeared to rip off of Eminem's "Imported from Detroit" Chrysler spot. "Audi has tremendous respect for Eminem and his works, and likewise for the 'Imported From Detroit' campaign which was created by Chrysler, and certainly Audi would never wish to insult or harm those parties or their fans and customers," the German automaker said Friday in a statement. Terms of the settlement weren't released, but as part of the agreement—which both parties said was reached "amicably" — Audi said it would "support the revitalization of Detroit by contributing to selected social projects."